Monday, November 21, 2011

Meet the CSC Staff!

Get to know CSC's Director of Development, Audrey Carmeli!

How long have you been at CSC?  
This is my fourth season.

Tell us about what you do on a daily basis:  
Many people do not realize that CSC is a not-for-profit organization, which means that ticket sales cover only a portion of the actual costs of putting such wonderful works on our stage. The rest comes from contributions. That’s where I come in—I handle the fundraising for CSC. That includes writing grant proposals, meeting with individual donors, keeping up with reporting requirements, and ensuring that all of our contributors receive their proper benefits. You may have seen me in the lobby greeting people just before a performance, or at one of our Patron Night or Opening Night events. Stop by and say hello!

What did you do prior to joining CSC? 
I worked in government and foundation relations as the Manager of Development Initiatives at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark. Before that, I did some stage management and production work for TimeLine Theatre in Chicago, and before that, I completed a PhD in Theatre History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

What has been your favorite CSC production to work on?  
This is a toughie. But I think I’ll have to go with THE SCHOOL FOR LIES, because that was the only one for which I’d been able to see the full progression from page to stage. I was familiar with the source material (Molière’s THE MISANTHROPE); I was able to attend the “table read,” where the actors met and read through the play for the very first time together and the designers talked through their concepts; and then of course I saw the actual production. Not once, but twice. And I laughed like crazy both times.

What is your favorite classical work? 
HAMLET. Oh, such wonderful soliloquies! 

What do you like to do in your free time?  
I read a lot, and I try to catch as much good theatre as I can.

What is your favorite color? 
Red. Maybe because I look really good in red. 

What is your favorite book? 
John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany.

Favorite neighborhood spot? 
 The Strand. 18 Miles of Books! If I were a ghost, I would gladly haunt that place for eternity.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"Subterfuge or Camouflage" - An Interview with THE CHERRY ORCHARD Translator John Christopher Jones

This interview appears in the recent edition of CSC's CLASSIC newsletter. Pick up a copy in our lobby, or download a pdf here.


You've acted in several Chekhov plays over the course of your career. Could you talk about the experience of playing Chekhov?

John Christopher Jones in THE SEAGULL
at CSC, 2008. Photo: Joan Marcus
I did Kulygin twice over a twenty-year period, I did PLATONOV at the ART and Sorin in THE SEAGULL at CSC. Playing Sorin was one of my all-time favorite experiences in the theatre because the Russian director Vyacheslav (Slava) Dolgachev who I thought was the most brilliant theatre animal I’d ever come across, sort of lived and breathed theatre. He was so passionate, and it’s interesting because as an actor, I’ve prided myself on being a text man, of centering myself on what the character was speaking and getting behind it one hundred percent, and Slava said that in Chekhov the text is not what’s going on. It’s like the tip of the iceberg. If anything, it’s subterfuge or camouflage. So that was a particular revelation.


I remember when I played Kulygin at the McCarter Theater in Lanford Wilson’s translation, that there were five places where I didn’t know how to get from sentence A to sentence B. So, I looked it up in the Russian original—I had taken Russian as a language in college, but I hadn’t really remembered too much of it so I used a dictionary—and every place where I had marked my script with an X, Lanford Wilson had either added or deleted a line of Chekhov. So, it was kind of interesting. I translated the whole part of Kulygin at McCarter. I used Lanford Wilson’s translation, I didn’t use any of my own stuff, but I did it to try to figure out, to at least give myself some ammunition to play the part. Here’s an example.  I don’t know if this will translate for a newsletter but it’s kind of interesting.  In the fire scene, Kulygin’s asleep and Masha enters the room and he wakes up and his line is “Milia Moya Masha. [More Russian]” which is usually translated, “My good Masha, my kind Masha, my dear Masha, my sweet Masha.” And the repetition of the “m” sound gives a clue. Interesting that it’s “nym nym nym” so I imagine him waking up at 3 or 4 in the morning, seeing his wife, and going, “nym nym nym.” It’s kind of baby talk, and I think I translated it as, “Mmmmmm my Masha. Precious, mmmyyy Masha.” So I was able to use the sound of the Russian to get a hint, a clue, as to how to play the moment, and when the show was over, I decided to translate the entire play. It took me a year. I did three drafts and I used a dictionary and the Russian text.


So would you say that your experience of playing Kulygin in that production, and your challenges of the areas that you had marked as being problematic in terms of the translation, sort of led you to start wanting to translate Chekhov yourself?

The answer is a resounding yes. The deal about translating the entire play, part of me just wanted to see if I could.  I’m sort of a puzzle person, I like Scrabble and crosswords and cryptic puzzles, so translation sort of feeds the same appetite in terms of trying to come up with alternative fillers for a space. And, I just found the work very, very interesting and rewarding. When CSC was about to do THREE SISTERS, I submitted my translation for consideration, but they had already committed to doing the Paul Schmidt version, but they said, “It’s really good, your THREE SISTERS translation. How about this, what if we commission you to do THE CHERRY ORCHARD?”


You worked closely with Andrei, John and Dianne on this translation. Can you talk a little bit about that collaborative process?

Adam Driver and John Christopher Jones in THE FOREST
at CSC, 2012. Photo: Joan Marcus
One of the reasons I was plugging for my version as opposed to other translations was that I’d be around and I’d be able to change things during rehearsal, if that was the case. In translating the part of Ranevskaya, I was thinking of Dianne specifically and the first hurdle was to get her seal of approval. I think because we’re friends and colleagues she was perhaps a little embarrassed having to tell me that although she thought the major speeches were beautifully written, a lot of the dialogue didn’t sit well in her mouth when she spoke it. It was a little too contemporary. So I had two or three sessions with Dianne changing things. They were very good sessions, I think. Basically, I was trying to make it so that she was comfortable, because the problem with translations is there usually comes a point where the actor rolls their eyes in disgust at the words they have to say. I know the particular word that I always hated as an actor in plays in translation was the word “scoundrel.” I just didn’t know how to say it. For Dianne, a lot of the changes were very minor: exchanging “darling” and “sweetheart,” changing “gonna” to “going to”… they were very minor but they made a big difference. Every time an actor has to say something they don’t believe in or have difficulty saying, it takes them out of the play. So, one of my jobs as an on-the-spot translator is to make it comfortable for the actors so that they can live through the words they have to speak as opposed to stumble over them. I had two or three sessions with John. First of all, he’s a lot of fun to be around. And like Dianne, his intuition is unimpeachable. I know Andrei's particularly unhappy with the nickname for Yepikhodov, which is usually translated as “twenty-two misfortunes” or “two-and-twenty troubles” or something pretty stupid like that. I have them call him “Major Catastrophe.” Andrei hates it. So, the short answer is: we’re in process.


Anything else you’d like to add?

Yes, there is. I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease eight years ago, and thank God I’ve been able to continue my work as an actor. I’m very grateful to CSC and Brian and Dianne for the privilege and the joy of continuing to work on such great material, but particularly Dianne, for her appreciation of what I can still do. I’m still working as an actor. Another company in town that’s been very faithful to me is Theatre for a New Audience. I think I’ve done seven plays for them in the last eight years.  The parts get smaller and smaller but they were still good parts: the Gravedigger in HAMLET and the Porter in MACBETH. The porter in MACBETH is the smallest part I’ve ever played, all of two pages. But everybody remembers the porter because he says, “Remember the porter.” He tells the audience, “Remember the porter!” before he leaves. So, as my acting work sort of rides off into the sunset, it’s nice to be able to connect as a translator. And in translating THE CHERRY ORCHARD, I have tried to find each character’s voice, and as a result, in a sense, I get to play all the parts. 

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THE CHERRY ORCHARD runs at Classic Stage Company through December 30, 2011.  Click here for tickets or call 212-352-3101 / 866-811-4111.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Meet the CSC Staff

Get to know the staff here at Classic Stage Company! Next up, meet CSC's Company Manager, John C. Hume.

How long have you worked at CSC? 
I have worked in the CSC box office for three seasons but starting just this month I have been promoted to Company Manager.
 
Tell us about what you do on a daily basis. 
A Company Manger works directly with the artists that create the shows we all love so much. I work with the directors, actors and designers to help make their experience at CSC a positive one. A Company Manager is also a bit of a jack-of-all-trades I'm learning. I have to arrange a flight for an artist, plan a birthday celebration for a cast member. For THE CHERRY ORCHARD I have had to call professional theatrical dog trainers to try to find/cast a dog for the show! It's all a lot of fun.
 
What did you do prior to joining CSC? 
For four years I worked at The Barrow Street Theatre in a variety of capacities and before that I worked at MIT in the Rotch Architecture and Urban Planning Library (back when theater was just a hobby and not my job!).
 
What has been your favorite CSC production to work on? 
How can you pick just one? VENUS IN FUR was, of course, a huge favorite of mine and THE SCHOOL FOR LIES (I almost fell out of my chair when Alison Fraser's character went all batty!), but my all time favorite was my first show here: THE SEAGULL. Such a beautiful and elegant production.
 
What is your favorite classical work?
I trained as an actor in college and went to conservatory in London and there they really instilled a love for all of the classics in me. However I have a particular soft spot for AS YOU LIKE IT, as I had the honor of playing Orlando in a fantastic production many years ago.
 
What do you like to do in your free time?
I do still perform now and then. I joke that I am the "darling of downtown cabaret" because the shows I have done at The Duplex have turned out to be quite popular with my friends and co-workers. I can sing a pretty mean show tune!

What’s your favorite CSC neighborhood hang out spot and why?
I was never a coffee connoisseur before working at CSC but Everyman Espresso is now part of my every day routine. And for dinner? You have to hit up John's of 12th Street. Have you had their pizza? And the name of the place is pretty cool too :) 

What is your favorite color?
Green.
 
What is your favorite book?
Howard's End--a classic...just like me!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Meet the CSC Staff

Get to know the staff here at Classic Stage Company! First up, meet our new Audience Services Manager, Gina Cimmelli.

How long have you worked at CSC? 
I started as a freelance House Manager in 2009 and became a full time employee in September.
 
Tell us about what you do on a daily basis. 
I am here for the customers. A friendly face to help sell tickets, book memberships, reserve group sales, and arrange accessible seating. I’m in the box office Monday through Saturday to answer any and all questions. 
 
Also if you’re looking to usher for a performance, feel free to contact me at housemanager@classicstage.org
 
What did you do prior to joining CSC? 
I worked for the Tribeca Performing Arts Center as the Senior House Manager, where I worked on numerous dramas, musicals, & dance performances. My favorite project with TPAC was the Tribeca Film Festival.
 
What has been your favorite CSC production to work on? 
I really enjoyed working on Venus in Fur. It has such an amazing script and the audiences were never disappointed by a performance. I also enjoyed Three Sisters last season.  The cast was so dedicated and strong.
 
What is your favorite classical work?
I’m a fan of anything Shakespeare or Molière.
 
What do you like to do in your free time?
I am a musician. I perform with my band “Gina’s Picture Show” up and down the east coast. Stop by and visit us at ginaspictureshow.com

What’s your favorite CSC neighborhood hang out spot and why?
I love going to the farmers market in Union Square on the weekends. The local treats are delicious. Though to be honest, I come in for Everyman Espresso even on my days off! Their drinks are amazing and the double chocolate chip cookies are the best medicine for a busy day!
 
What is your favorite color?
Blueberry! Looks just like the food, but sadly doesn’t smell as nice.
 
What is your favorite book?
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, although I am very partial to J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Meet the Cast of UNNATURAL ACTS

Jerry Marsini talks about his character in UNNATURAL ACTS and his experience as co-author.

Who do you play in UNNATURAL ACTS? Can you describe your character's role in the play?

I play Donald Clark who was a third year PhD candidate in 1920 and had no evident connection to Ernest Roberts or his friends. He was drawn into the inquiry as it was winding down because a student, whose identity we don’t know, mentioned in his interrogation that he had once been “approached” by Clark.

In our play, Clark is a man who has learned to survive well inside the system, presenting himself as expected in public, while in private living a life of longing, expressing his sensual self through poetry. Clark is also a character who finds his dignity through the trial, realizing in the end that despite the difficulty, it is better to live his life in truth. 

How do you relate or connect with him?

There are so many parallels between Donald Clark and myself. I am a bit older than my cast mates. I lived a life in the closet throughout my formative and college years in the eighties, during the height of ignorance about AIDS, pre-internet, pre-Glee—pre-Will & Grace for that matter. I was very adept at being the person everyone expected, hiding unwanted feelings that were rising in me, but secretly finding an occasional “clue.” Perhaps the most notable connection for me is that I majored in French literature and studied in Paris which afforded the opportunity to travel all over Europe, and I was relieved to learn that as I was exposed to so much diversity, people all over the world were essentially the same.

Please tell us about your role as one of the co-authors of the play. What
has the process been like for you as both a writer and an actor?

It has been a tremendous learning experience because I had never before been part of a collaboration of equal scale. But above all, my experience of creating this play has been overwhelmingly positive, which is due to Tony Speciale’s talent as a director and ability to assemble so many creative people, and then to focus all those strong points of view into a singular vision. And it is always a pleasure to contribute your best to such a group. You know that what you bring to the process will be met with even better contributions, and that alone is inspiring. However, watching it all come together, seeing how everyone makes the project more important than any individual, you realize it is infinitely better because of everyone’s combined talents. That’s a rare gift.

Why do you think this play is important?

It is based on true events from our not-so-distant past, and because similar events are still taking place today, in new forms. Young gay men and women still face ridicule and persecution, and in turn, self-hate as they feel the impulses they are having signify that they are being betrayed by their own bodies. So I hope our play helps audiences analyze any personal prejudices they may have, as well as question the roles each gender is expected to play, which are so deeply rooted in our society. I hope that will help to herald a day when no one bats an eye as little girls and boys show interest in whatever hobbies they choose, make friends with girls or boys and aren't made to feel that either is "right" or "wrong" and come into their own as young adults and begin to pair off in whatever relationship makes them better, happy people.

If you wanted the audience to take away one thing from UNNATURAL ACTS, what would that be?

There is so much information that couldn’t be included in the play for practical reasons. There are so many similar stories that will never be told. I hope the audience leaves the theater with an appetite whet to know more, discover more, with a desire to be more open, more tolerant, with the passion to love more, to care more, and with the courage to live more, to be themselves, openly.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Meet the Cast of UNNATURAL ACTS

Max Jenkins talks about his character in UNNATURAL ACTS and his experience as co-author.


Who do you play in UNNATURAL ACTS? Can you describe your character's role in the play?



I play Stanley Gilkey, resident theatre maven and president of the Harvard Dramatic Club.  Stanley also has a big thing for Philosophy, in large part because of a fascination with his teacher, Donald Clark. Stanley is brave. He's ready for a sexual awakening.  And he always gets what he wants.



How do you relate or connect with him?

On a certain level, Stanley sees each person in his life as an obstacle in his path to success.  Creepy to admit, but I have experienced that feeling.  As Stanley, I tap into my most hysterical New York-bred neuroses. Each of Stanley's successes is a rung on a ladder, but he isn't really sure where that ladder leads. I relate to that.


Please tell us about your role as one of the co-authors of the play. What has the process been like for you as both a writer and an actor?

More than anything, it has been incredibly rewarding as an artist to stay with a character for two years; to be able to come back to a guy as complex and dark as Stanley Gilkey every few weeks and wake him up again. I'm still learning something new about him every night. Usually what I learn is a new, deeper way in which I can bring myself to Stanley.

Why do you think this play is important?

This week brought the iconic, triumphant embrace of gay rights in New York. This play would sober anybody right up on Gay Pride weekend, but it's so important that, in the midst of our triumph, we reflect on a moment in time when this joy was unimaginable, whether it be Larry Kramer's '80's or 1920 where homosexuality was viewed as a contagious disease.

If you wanted the audience to take away one thing from UNNATURAL ACTS, what would that be?

A sense of rage.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Meet the Cast of UNNATURAL ACTS

Frank De Julio talks about his experience as a co-author and actor in UNNATURAL ACTS.


Who do you play in UNNATURAL ACTS? Can you describe your character's role in the play?  

I play Keith Percy Smerage. He is a transfer student from Tufts University, which automatically makes him an outcast among the boys at Harvard, and he is an aspiring actor whose passion is endless. I see him as a bleeding heart with a desperate need to be accepted, who falls in love for the first time in the play.

How do you relate or connect with him?

I connect with him on so many levels. From the research we know that he was very close with and had great love for his family. He was an artist who desperately wanted to better himself and tap into his full potential. In the letters he wrote to his mother, Grace Smerage, he had self-esteem and confidence issues. He came from a working class family and had to really learn how to survive. I moved to NYC two weeks after graduating from high school when I was 17, on my own, without knowing anyone. I lived in a hostel for a year and I have been here for seven years now. The questions on my mind since the day I arrived here have been: "How can I get closer to what I want out of life?" In this way, I believe Keith and I are a lot alike. I have been working on this character on a daily basis for the past two years. He has honestly helped me become a better person and artist. He has made me fully realize that acting is about paying tribute to the person you are playing. Truly. Serving that person and giving them as much credit as possible.

Please tell us about your role as one of the co-authors of the play. What has the process been like for you as both a writer and an actor?


When Tony offered me the role of Keith I was thrilled. I had no idea what I was in for and how special this would become to me. I quickly became obsessed with Keith. I had never considered myself a writer. I tried to help create a person who did not get a chance he deserved in life, by finally giving him the chance he deserved. The process as a writer and actor has been a very interesting one. We have been working on it for so long now and gone though so many different variations of structure, arch and character development, that every word in this play brings back at least five memories I have from the past two years. I always work better on my feet and a lot of this play was inspired by improvisation sessions we had at the beginning of our process (4 hour sessions 5 days a week doing writing work and on our feet improving in character). That's where I really found Keith.

Why do you think this play is important?


This is a story that has been hidden for the last 91 years. It needs to be heard. The men who went through this horrible event deserve to have their story told.

If you wanted the audience to take away one thing from UNNATURAL ACTS, what would that be?

The reality that this event actually happened and there are so many other stories out there like this that we have no idea a
bout. And unfortunately, they are still happening today.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A BEHIND THE SCENES LOOK AT THE DEVELOPMENT OF UNNATURAL ACTS: An Interview with director and co-author Tony Speciale

This interview appears in CSC's CLASSIC Newsletter. Click here to download a copy of the CLASSIC. 

What made you want to bring this story to the stage?

As a gay man, learning of this story, I think I felt very fortunate. I was raised in Kentucky in a conservative environment. However, in high school I found a way to survive within that system, and actually connected with like-minded people who were discovering their sexuality at the same time. I feel like I was able to bypass a lot of discrimination that many of my friends, and certainly my older friends from generations just prior, had experienced. So, I think I had a healthy teenage and college life—I felt pretty open. And what struck me about the Secret Court story was that, in contrast to my own experience, here was a group of young men in 1920 who were ahead of their time, and despite the fact that they had found each other, and found a way of communicating—sharing their ideas, their desires and passions with each other—they couldn’t survive, and the system destroyed them. This touched me deeply and emotionally. Thinking about how lucky I have been to live in the latter 20th and early 21st centuries and how wrong the timing was for these young men, I wanted to give tribute and memorial to them, because I recognized similarities in my own friends and in myself. I often wondered how I would have reacted and what I would have done if confronted with the same circumstances.

How close are the 11 men we meet on the stage of CSC to the men that are in the trial transcripts? And how did you go about imagining their lives beyond the transcripts, evidence and correspondence?

Although there are over 500 pages of documents, to call them “transcripts” is inaccurate, because they are often shorthand and sparse notations of the interrogations. Correspondence included from students or their families to the deans were written after the fact. The records of the trials themselves are somewhat cryptic. So when you try to create characters from those records, you look at their life: what you know of their lives during their time at Harvard, and then their journeys after their school experience, or how their lives end. And most of these endings were tragic. But for instance, we see that one of the men who most likely was not a homosexual, was found guilty by close association with the others, and he was expelled and readmitted a year later to finish his degree. He was on the debate team and a student representative while at Harvard, and eventually went on to become a prominent federal judge. So you start to piece together a trajectory for him based on what you know, and you can see he was very interested in politics and law, and as an artist you can imagine that perhaps this event radically altered his perception of justice.

The eleven men appearing on the stage of CSC are an imaginative representation of what we know of the eleven men we read about in the transcripts. And of course this play was written collaboratively with a group of writers who are also actors so they bring their own personalities and their own desires and drives—all of that imagination mingles together in a beautiful way.

Can you talk about the way you and the Plastic Theatre developed this play?

This play had several phases. The first was research. We, individually and together as a group, did an enormous amount of research about the time period of the teens and twenties—from culture trends, meaning the music they listened to, the dance styles they had, silent films that were just being created—to what was occurring locally in Boston and nationally with the Spanish Flu epidemic and Prohibition, for instance—to the global crisis of The Great War, what we now call WWI. We looked at life at Harvard under then President A. Lawrence Lowell and the focus of his administration. And then we researched what it may have been like to be a homosexual at that time, but actually people weren’t identified as such, it was considered a disease. And of course we had the actual archival documents, that are fragments and sometimes barely legible, so it took hours, weeks and sometimes months to crack a phrase or sentence that would give us clues about a character or event. Even now there are still discrepancies and missing pieces of the puzzle that we will never know. And from all of this, we began to create a world for the play, a pool of knowledge that became shared information in the group.

The next phase was a process of daily improvisations and exercises that were built on creating an ensemble, a group of men, a society. And we applied that research and those fragments we knew about the characters on our feet, while improvising certain events and situations that we discussed previously or that I would suggest to the group. And a structure slowly started to emerge that the writer-actors would inhabit. Sometimes we recorded the work and reviewed it later, or transcribed it. Then we’d read it and compress it, and return to improvisations again, generating more and more material.

Next we went into a process of rewriting, editing and further distilling the play, and after a year we then pared down to a smaller writing group within the Plastic Theatre—myself, playwright Nick Norman, dramaturg Heather Denyer, and three actors who are in the cast, Jess Burkle, Joe Curnutte and Jerry Marsini. Over the course of several months we refined the structure, dialog and events of the script to sculpt the play that appears on CSC’s stage.

Beyond recovering voices that have been silenced, which, in and of itself, is an important reason to encounter this play, what else do you hope an audience will take away?

UNNATURAL ACTS represents an examination of a specific group of people at a very specific moment in our country’s history, who struggled under severe circumstances. And what I find beautiful about this story is that it contains a lot of life and love and sensuality and intelligence. It’s a story about brotherhood. And I think anyone can relate to having a close-knit group of friends. The play is as much about life as it is about death, but death is also a very important character. Death brings things into perspective. My hope is that anyone who comes to see the play, and I think everyone will find at least a character to whom he or she relates, will be moved by the characters’ vibrancy. And I hope that the events of the play—which are horrifying—will bring attention to the hate and intolerance that is still very much a part of the experience of many gay, lesbian, questioning youths any minority really—who are searching for a way to live a genuine life. And hopefully the play will help us all find a more open and tolerant future.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A BEHIND THE SCENES LOOK AT THE DEVELOPMENT OF UNNATURAL ACTS: Reporter Amit Paley recounts his discovery of Harvard's Secret Court transcripts


An interview with Amit Paley, the student journalist who broke the story of the Secret Court in Harvard’s student newspaper, The Crimson. This interview appears in CSC's CLASSIC Newsletter. Click here to download a copy of the CLASSIC. 


How did you originally discover the Secret Court?


I was doing research in the Harvard University archives when I came across a strange entry labeled “Secret Court, 1920.” There was a short, cryptic description that raised far more questions than it answered. But it was enough to make clear that there was an incredible story buried deep in the files of the university.

In your Crimson article you mentioned that Harvard initially denied your request to review the Secret Court files. Can you speak about why they resisted and how you ultimately won the appeal?
                                   
Harvard had kept these files secret for more than 80 years and at times it seemed like the university was determined to keep them locked up forever. I first requested access to the material in March 2002, when I was a sophomore at Harvard College. According to Harvard’s rules, university records are supposed to be made public after 80 years. But because these files were determined to be “sensitive,” the archives checked with the dean of Harvard College before releasing them to me.
                                   
I was a bit stunned when the dean denied my request, but I decided to aggressively appeal his decision and, ultimately, the university convened a special committee to review the matter. It seemed antithetical to the mission of Harvard—a university ­­whose motto is Veritas—to keep this story a secret. I was convinced that I would get the information released eventually, even if I had to petition the president of Harvard or write in The Crimson about the school’s attempt to keep the story hidden from public view.
           
The University redacted all student names from the documents they finally released. Can you tell us what you understand to be the rationale behind their decision, and about your process of uncovering those identities?
                 
It seemed like a huge victory when the University finally agreed to release the documents, but the fact that the University redacted the names of all the students involved made it incredibly difficult to fully understand what happened back in 1920. Harvard argued that the redaction was necessary because the records were related to a disciplinary case. That decision didn’t make any sense to me, and I appealed it. “Though the sexual orientation of those students was treated as a disciplinary case in 1920, there is nothing embarrassing or criminal about it in 2002,” I wrote in a letter asking for the full, un-redacted records. But my appeal was denied. Still, I realized that it was critically important to uncover the identities that the university had blocked out, so I put together a team of reporters from The Crimson to help me comb through the archives at Harvard and other local schools, as well as public records throughout the Northeast. We used yearbooks, freshman registers, birth records, maps of campus, and other documents to piece the story together. It took nearly six months but eventually I had confidence that we had accurately identified all the key
students whose identities had been redacted.
           
As a student enrolled at Harvard, did you feel a sense of risk or danger in exposing this information about Harvard's past? And what were the positive or negative reactions you experienced as a result of the article? What was your communication like with relatives of the men involved?
           
The Harvard Crimson is an independent, student-run organization, so I knew that the newspaper would support and defend me if the administration tried to punish me for pursuing this story. The Crimson has a long tradition of challenging the Harvard administration and, in fact, during my junior year, when I became president of the newspaper, we filed a lawsuit against the school for refusing to release Harvard University Police Department records that should have been made public. So I never felt like I was in any danger. The story did spark a huge amount of attention and discussion on the Harvard campus and across the country, but aside from the daughter of one of the men involved in the case, who was upset that we were printing her father’s name, I didn’t experience any negative reactions or feedback as a result of the article.
   

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A GROUCH FOR OUR TIME: MOLIÈRE’S MISANTHROPE, REVISITED

An interview with playwright David Ives from CSC's CLASSIC newsletter, available in our lobby or by download at classicstage.org

What drew you to take on Molière’s THE MISANTHROPE?

Let me say first of all that you start a project like this by kneeling down before a great playwright. Molière is part of the pantheon. He’s one of the all-time great creators of comic characters. A fantastic deviser of comic bits. Yet I have to say I’m often disappointed by his plots. THE MISANTHROPE is the Molière play that’s always fascinated me most, maybe because I always feel like it promises the most. But for me – as a playwright, I mean – it always raises all kinds of questions and comic opportunities that Molière never investigates. The most interesting being:  how in the world did the main character, or characters, end up in love? Molière’s play just starts in the middle of things, with the love story a fait accompli. I always want to know how these two wildly dissimilar people got there.

Can you talk a little about taking liberties with an acknowledged classic?

Well, as you know there already exists a perfect faithful rendering of LE MISANTHROPE in English, which is Richard Wilbur’s great translation. We’ll always have that. It will never age. Given that, why not take this story and retell it, drawing from Molière but expanding on the plotline, or lines? In the end I found I departed so much from the original that I ended up with a new play that demanded a whole new title. Hence, THE SCHOOL FOR LIES. But with THE MISANTHROPE still recognizably there at the core.

I had some experience with this a couple of years ago, when the Shakespeare Theatre in D.C. asked me to translate a comedy by Corneille called THE LIAR. Along the way, while working on it, I found myself changing certain things in the story, partly because what worked in 1643 simply wasn’t going to fly in the early 21st century, partly because we have a different tradition in English comedy, thanks to Shakespeare. Corneille himself paved my road, because he based THE LIAR on an old Spanish comedy and felt free to keep the basic story but tell it in his own way, to accommodate what was on his chest and what he thought the situation and the characters demanded.

How did you get from THE LIAR to THE SCHOOL FOR LIES?

Simple. Writing THE LIAR was the most fun I’d ever had writing anything. I really enjoyed working in verse and wanted to continue in it. Brian [Kulick, Classic Stage’s Artistic Director] asked me if there was any play I wanted to adapt, and I immediately said THE MISANTHROPE. The two are like sister plays: THE LIAR is about a man who can’t tell the truth, THE MISANTHROPE is about a man who can’t tell anything but the truth. Also, THE LIAR is a play about youth. THE MISANTHROPE is about people who’re out of their first youth.

You’ve just finished another verse translation-slash-adaptation for Washington’s Shakespeare Theatre.

Yes, it’s a knockabout comedy from 1708 by Jean-François Regnard called LE LEGATAIRE UNIVERSEL. Who is Jean-François Regnard? He was the greatest French comic playwright after Molière and the play is a peach. I call it, in English, THE HEIR APPARENT.

Talk a little about working in verse.

Verse opens up the possibilities of what you can say, and expands your ways of saying it while forcing you to be concise. Maybe most crucially, it forces your audience to listen just a little harder. That’s very important, what with iPhones twitching in people’s fists every minute these days.

But you’re not just working in verse, you’re working in the French brand, which means rhymed couplets.

Yes, we don’t have much of a tradition in English of rhymed couplets. French 17th-century audiences, for whatever reason, liked to hear a rhyme chiming every two lines and finishing the thought. Couplet, stop. Couplet, stop. For us that’s choppy. It’s as if the characters’ emotions come in two-line quanta and then start over. So I’ve had to do a lot of pondering in that area as well, finding a way through without letting go of couplets.

Why keep couplets at all?

Because they’re the distinguishing mark of French classical drama. They’re Chaplin’s moustache. Robert Frost famously defined free verse as tennis without a net. A MISANTHROPE not in couplets is tennis without a court.

Do you use a rhyming dictionary?

Of course. I’d be lost without one. Very. In his book FINISHING THE HAT, Stephen Sondheim is very eloquent on the need for rhyming dictionaries, and I’m happy to take shelter behind his coattails. Or, in this case, dust jacket.

THE SCHOOL FOR LIES continues your collaboration with Walter Bobbie at CSC after successful productions of NEW JERUSALEM and VENUS IN FUR. Both of these previous productions had moments of humor in their own ways, but nothing as significant as THE SCHOOL FOR LIES. What do you look for in a director in terms of comedy?

I look for Walter Bobbie. He’s got the whole toolkit, and not just for comedy. As a wonderful actor himself he understands how to get inside the lines, how to keep things afloat but keep them real. He can speak to actors as an actor, help them through questions that I as a playwright can’t address, while knowing as a director how to create stage pictures of such subtlety and naturalness his work seems to disappear inside whatever show he’s working on. He rightfully prides himself on that. He’s not there to present Walter Bobbie, he’s there to present the play, which can be a rare quality among directors these days. Because he’s written things himself he knows how to critique writing. He’s got amazing visual taste, he knows music inside and out. Maybe most importantly in terms of directing comedy, he directs by infusing a rehearsal room with joy. I myself think he was a champagne bottle in a previous incarnation. He’s a full 3-litre jeroboam in this one.

What was it like for you to collaborate with Molière?

We certainly had our issues at first, sitting down to the writing table. Things we had to wrestle with, coming from different traditions. Molière’s English isn’t very good but luckily for both of us, I speak pretty fair 17th-century French. So, like people in plays, we keep on talking. Listen, everything’s cool. We go to Jerry Lewis films together, and howl. Did you know he makes an amazing boeuf bourguignon?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

An Interview with Shakespeare Scholar James Shapiro

If you missed our March 19 Saturday Symposium, here's an interview with Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro. Professor Shapiro recently sat down with Double Falsehood dramaturg Joe Cermatori to discuss Shakespeare's long-lost play.

What can you tell us about the cultural situation between Spain and England at the end of the sixteenth century, after the defeat of the Spanish Armada, and how the literary output of this period reflects the larger cultural situation? What accounts for the possibility of Cardenio in Jacobean England, given all the anti-Spanish dramas of the Elizabethan period?

There’s a sea of change in English drama and its treatment of Spanish materials that takes place some time in the early seventeenth century. We go from the vilification of the Spanish as untrustworthy, Catholic Machiavels to a much more nuanced and perceptive response to Spanish materials, and especially to Cervantes.

For me, this story begins in 1604 with the Treaty of London. Elizabeth never made peace with Spain. Both the English and the Spanish—not only in 1588, but in the subsequent armada attempts that never came to fruition—were like a couple of prize fighters that had punched each other, punch drunk but neither had knocked out the other. The financial cause of maintaining a state of belligerency was far too great, and there were too many areas of common interest—not religious, but commercial—so, when King James comes to the throne in 1603, there’s peace made in the Treaty of London.

There’s a nice little Shakespearean angle to all this: in August of 1604, as a member of the King’s Men, Shakespeare and his fellow company members are called in by James to, how should I put it, look good in their red livery as members of the royal retinue for the Spanish embassy. So, for eighteen days in a row that August, Shakespeare’s hanging out with, and trying to flesh out James’s corps with the Spanish embassy. For all we know, there was some kind of intellectual and artistic conversation between the English and the Spanish parties.

In 1605, Cervantes writes and publishes Don Quixote, which is almost immediately recognized in England. Once you have an English embassy go to Spain, discover the intellectual culture there, and report back on it, you have these doors opening. I suppose the analogy is to the opening up of East European writings after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet Union. All of a sudden, people who perceived each other to be enemies are now engaging in all kinds of exchange: economic exchange, cultural exchange. How do we know this? We know this from looking at, say, Ben Jonson’s use of Don Quixote in stuff he’s writing around 1610-1611: Epicoene uses it, The Alchemist uses it. Probably the first person to touch down on this is George Wilkins who collaborated with Shakespeare on Pericles: he writes a play called The Miseries of Enforced Marriage where one of the characters says, “Now I am armed to fight with a windmill.” When you can say this on stage, and have people in the house get the allusion, people are talking about and using this great, great source, even though Thomas Shelton’s translation of Don Quixote didn’t appear in English in published form until 1612.  Other writers are using it, you find it in Michael Drayton, Thomas May, you find it in Thomas Overbury, you find it in Middleton’s Your Five Gallants, everybody’s doing a little reading and dipping into Cervantes, even before it’s translated.

Once it’s translated that accelerates. It’s translated by Shelton and published in 1612. Shakespeare and Fletcher almost surely collaborate on a play called Cardenio, which relies on Cervantes’ plot and which we know was performed at Court a couple of times in May and June of that 1613—once, in part, for the Spanish representative at this time.

A last thing I would say: by the end of the first decade of the seventeenth century, the Italian sources had really been tapped out—all of those Italian novellas, and Shakespeare had wrung Plutarch dry, had gotten everything out of Holinshed’s Chronicles that he was going to. You’re always looking for a new, brilliant, and powerful source of inspiration. Boom! You have a brilliant work of art (you can call it the first novel, but I don’t think anybody registered it in that way) that is also commenting upon works of art, its tradition, and what formed it. For somebody who’s creating plays within plays, and always meditating, as recently as The Tempest, upon art reflecting on itself, this was great stuff.
  
Did Cardenio, or Don Quixote for that matter, change how Spaniards were represented on stage?

I don’t think it’s the drama that leads with that. One of the things that King James hoped to do in order to secure peace in Europe was to arrange a series of dynastic marriages with his children and Catholic rulers in Europe. So for instance, he marries his daughter Elizabeth off to a Protestant Prince in the Hapsburg monarchy. He had planned or had hoped to marry his quite Protestant son Prince Henry, but Henry died unfortunately in 1612. He was the crown prince, and James had planned to marry him off to perhaps a member of the Spanish Royal family. James himself married Anne of Denmark, who had converted to Catholicism. So from the top down, there is a move away from the sharp hostility to Spain that had prevailed in the previous decade. After this there’s some tension that we see in plays like A Game of Chess by Middleton, and later in the seventeenth century, where you have again this residual anxiety about Spain. So it’s not being driven by the drama. The drama is responding from the bottom up to the political environment changing from the top down.

We know that famous quip from Charles V that he spoke Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to his horse, but what was the status of Spanish language fluency for the average Londoner in early modern England?

That’s a good question. That’s something you can trace in certain ways. Nowadays, if you wanted to know what the state of the world is or was, or what percentage of undergraduates are studying Chinese and what percentage are no longer studying German or Russian, you’d look to schools to see that. In Jacobean England, you’d look for language guides that are published and 1605 sees this really major language guide. People are picking this up, people realize if they’re going to do commerce in Spain, trade with the Spanish, they have to know the language. I think there had been a couple of other language guides from the early 1580s, but I’m not exactly sure. But that tells you that it is going beyond a small group of people who already have Latin cold from their school days and have picked up French and Italian. It’s not that huge a stretch at that point, if you know those three languages, to read Spanish with the help of a dictionary. 

Shakespeare probably knew as much Spanish as he needed. We know he had French. We know he had Latin. And we know he was reading a lot of sources, but you don’t get a lot of other Spanish sources in Shakespeare. So could he have read Don Quixote in the originals? Possibly. I don’t sense anywhere in his works between 1605 and 1612 little bits of Cervantes or other Spanish writers bubbling up. You only get it after Shelton publishes this really terrific translation. I think it’s significant that it wasn’t until Shelton’s translation came out that he and Fletcher reached into Cervantes to get this story. So if Shakespeare had rudimentary Spanish, maybe his Spanish wasn’t that good. Little Latin, less Greek, less Spanish.
 
Many Spanish plays from this period use tragicomic techniques, or have tragicomic resolutions. We get the same thing in this play, and throughout Shakespeare’s late plays, in which the endings are deeply ambiguous or perplexing. Does this amount any degree of cultural influence from Spain? 

Here’s a chicken and egg question. Tragicomedy is the defining genre that is emerging at the end of the first decade of the Jacobean theatrical world. Now is that in part driven by stuff washing up from Spain? I don’t really think so, but I don’t know. I think that after a run that includes Hamlet, Macbeth, Lear, Coriolanus and Timon of Athens, it’s really hard to keep pushing tragedy. You get Webster and The Duchess of Malfi, but the deep tragic vein is tapped out in certain ways. Also the move away from tragedy may be because of the new indoor theatres that catered more to a wealthier audience willing to pay three times as much to see a play at Blackfriars. Maybe this accounts for the turn towards tragicomedy, which, if you will, is more romantic, and has more to do with the damsel-in-distress quality that even a play like Cardenio probably had. So does it dovetail with these kinds of Cervantine plots and with the Spanish drama in the seventeenth century? Sure. Is it influenced by it? Probably not. But sometimes cultural changes occur in tandem and sometimes they occur independently, and it seems as if these are going in tandem, though sometimes they’re influential, mutually influential.

This is not an area that scholars have delved into deeply enough, but happily the Cardenio possibilities are going to generate more scholarship on this. So if you ask me the same set of questions in five years I will have more accomplished answers. Maybe not deeper ones, but I’ll be able to fill in these details a little bit more. You know when I think of Spain I’m thinking of William Lithgow’s travel narratives—“The Spanish grabbed me and they tortured the hell out of me and now I’m back! Those crazy inquisitorial Spanish are dangerous!” But I don’t know enough about all that was coming in from Spain.

One other nice little bit: now at the Folger Shakespeare Library there’s a lovely second Folio from 1632, one that came from Spain and that was in possession of English Catholics there who were training in Spain to become priests. And it was doctored by the Inquisition which obviously went through all the books available: so plays in which the Spanish are vilified early on in Shakespeare’s career, such as Measure for Measure, they just ripped that play out, it was irredeemable for them. The Merchant of Venice… all these problematic plays are marked up. So, it’s a two-way street, the Spanish were not all that keen on how the English and Shakespeare represented them, and that wonderful, marked-up, censored text tells a story about how complicated cross-cultural influence was.

Tell us more about the court performances you mentioned. Is it true The History of Cardenio might have been played on the dual occasion of the marriage of James’s daughter and the funeral rites for his son?

That’s kind of reading it through Hamlet, I suppose. We know that there were of plays performed at the marriage of Princess Elizabeth in May, so we know the company had to produce a lot of plays and this is one of the plays that were produced at that time. It’s very tricky, though. I don’t think Shakespeare wrote it for court production. Everything he wrote was first staged at the Globe or Blackfriars as well. He’s not writing a play that’s for a court occasion. The last thing I want anybody to think is that Shakespeare was an occasional dramatist, that he was writing for particular events. If he wanted to do that he would have written court masques, which he never did. He’s a commercial playwright, there’s commercial appeal and this play had it, whatever this play was.

That is to say, we no longer have Cardenio. All we have is an early 18th century gut renovation of a restoration, a gut renovation of a Jacobean play. Let’s say we’re walking along the streets of New York City. We’re downtown, say, and we’re walking where New Amsterdam once was. There’s pavement, and beneath that there’s cobblestone, and then there’s stuff beneath that. Or another way of looking at it is—as anybody who has ever owned an old house knows—houses are renovated, and after a while they undergo a gut renovation, in which you take out everything but the walls and the air. That’s what this play is. Another example: we have King Lear that dates from 1606, and we also have Nahum Tate’s 1681 version of King Lear, which supplies a happy ending. Imagine trying to reconstruct Shakespeare’s version of King Lear from Nahum Tate’s. And then imagine we didn’t have Nahum Tate’s but we had an early eighteenth-century adaptation of the Nahum Tate, that’s the degree of difficulty we’re trying to get at.

Now do I still feel, do I still see those post and beam timbers, especially in act one of the play? I do. Do I think that Theobald would have been capable of recreating a kind of faux Jacobean language? Some people think so. I actually don’t give him that much credit.  I think there will be a backlash within a year saying maybe this is all a Triple Falsehood– that is to say, a falsehood inflicted upon Double Falsehood by Theobald in claiming this play to be something Shakespearean. But I don’t actually think so. I think that this is a very important play to do because whatever changes that restoration adaptation made to its Jacobean original, this play still tells us a lot about Shakespeare that we otherwise would not have known.

The Shakespeare connection really comes from Moseley’s booklist in the 1650s. He was a bookseller in London, and he lists this play, Cardenio, by Fletcher and Shakespeare. Almost surely, there’s no reason to think that that’s a forgery or fabrication. There was a manuscript of Cardenio in the 1650s that maybe one day will turn up in somebody’s attic, or some great house in the UK—that’s not an impossibility. Then we’ll be able to answer these questions a little better. But what’s significant is: first, it tells us that Spanish sources are now shaping English dramatic writing; and second, that late in his career, Shakespeare collaborated with Fletcher or five of his last ten plays, and those plays change our understanding of where Shakespeare sought inspiration and what kind of writing he was doing at the end of his career. For that alone it’s worth thinking about and seeing this production.

What would have been the extent of Shakespeare’s involvement, given that Fletcher was his co-author?

If you look at a collaboratively written play from the beginning of Shakespeare’s career, like Titus Andronicus, you can see that Shakespeare was the junior partner in the collaboration. George Peele writes the beginning and end, and Shakespeare does the rest. One of the models that Shakespeare was familiar with was, “All right: I’m gonna do the beginning, I know how it ends, you finish the rest.” The only play we have that shows a kind of active collaboration back and forth that doesn’t fit that model is Timon of Athens where you really get a sense of two people sitting in a room, either one is dictating and the other is writing, or they’re going back and forth and figuring out. So a collaboration could simply be, “I write the beginning, you write the end, and let’s figure out how to mesh these.”

But does this mean Double Falsehood is the gut renovation of a house in which Shakespeare only worked on the plumbing? Or just did the tile work?

I’d look at it the other way, I’d look at it as Shakespeare coming in and saying, “I’m establishing the dimensions, I’m doing the basic architectural changes, and you just come in and do the wiring and plumbing.” Shakespeare was the concept guy, and Fletcher was the wiring. Even that’s a little facile, since each writer has different strengths. Fletcher was really good at stuff that either Shakespeare was not good at or not interested enough in being good at, and vice versa. It’s the same with any other kind of collaboration. So, Shakespeare’s probably most engaged with that opening scene, with that opening act.  And of course part of that is lost. There was almost surely some kind of rape scene involved in act one, and that’s not something that would have survived into a Restoration, let alone early eighteenth-century version.

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s going to be staging what they’re going to call Cardenio rather than Double Falsehood. I was just over there this summer, working with them on it, talking with them about it. The director, Greg Doran, is reconstructing the scenes he believes would have been in there in Shakespeare. He’s very intelligent, but it’s about as speculative also as you necessarily have to get. He’s being very careful and reaching out to the scholars who know the collaborative Shakespeare very well. But those are the choices available to us. Do we try to recreate something, or do we go with Gary Taylor’s recreation of it, or do we go with Stephen Greenblatt’s collaboration with Charles Mee and try to bring this play one more step into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries with a different kind of collaboration? All those are very useful ways of trying to understand what was set in motion when England made peace with Spain, and Cervantes hit the shores of England and inspired a lot of great writers.







Friday, March 25, 2011

Alexander Pope and Lewis Theobald: None but themselves can be their parallel

DOUBLE FALSEHOOD dramaturg Joe Cermatori writes on the controversy between poet Alexander Pope and DOUBLE FALSEHOOD adapter Lewis Theobald.

Apart from attracting fame and notoriety for his work on Double Falsehood, Lewis Theobald was known in the early eighteenth century for a public falling-out with one of the Augustan Age’s greatest poets and satirists, Alexander Pope. The two met sometime shortly after the 1712 publication of Pope’s masterpiece, The Rape of the Lock, and seem to have been initially on friendly terms. When Pope published a translation of Homer’s Iliad in 1717, Theobald’s cultural magazine, The Censor, heaped praise upon it. Four years later, Theobald included two of Pope’s poems in a miscellany he was editing, titled The Grove. At some point between 1723 and 1725, however, when Pope’s monumental edition of Shakespeare appeared in print, the professional friendship between the two men must have gone sour.

During those years, Theobald was pursuing a career as a professional writer for the theater, and was gaining a reputation by collaborating with the impresario and performer John Rich on a series of lavish spectacles, called “pantomimes,” staged at Drury Lane to great popular acclaim. He’d also produced an adaptation of Richard II, and had thereby garnered some recognition among the London cognoscenti as a commentator on Shakespearean matters. Curiously enough, his view of Pope’s thoroughly revisionist edition of Shakespeare—which took extensive liberties in introducing rewritten verses, prosodic alterations, and large-scale cuts to the plays—was that Pope had often taken too reverent an approach and left too much unamended. In 1726, he published a 200-page comment on Pope’s version of Hamlet, scathingly titled Shakespeare Restored: or a specimen of the many errors, as well committed, as unamended, by Mr Pope in his late edition of this poet. Designed not only to correct the said edition, but to restore the true reading of Shakespeare ever yet published.

Pope struck back quickly, but obliquely. In December of 1727, he published a mock-scenario for a pantomime in The Craftsman—a political journal established to oppose the Walpole premiership—entitled “The Mock Minister; or, Harlequin a Statesman.” The overt purpose of this scenario was to caricature both the Walpole government and the genre of pantomime simultaneously, but it also suggested an insidious complicity between the two. The scenario implied that proponents of the pantomime, like Theobald, were actively helping Walpole to keep the London population entertained and thus docile. When Double Falsehood had its premiere at Drury Lane later that same month, and when the play appeared in print several weeks later, its title page proclaiming that it had been “Written Originally by W. SHAKESPEARE,” Pope seized the opportunity to launch a more direct counterattack.

In a volume of prose and verse co-published with Jonathan Swift in 1728, Pope savaged Double Falsehood repeatedly for its failed attempts at poetic seriousness, and in so doing, introduced the term “bathos” into English literary criticism. One passage in particular suffered the brunt of Pope’s ire, a line spoken by Julio in the play’s third act: “Is there a treachery like this in baseness / Recorded anywhere? It is the deepest. / None but itself can be its parallel” (3.1.17). Pope fastened upon the last of these three lines, and—misquoting it as “None but himself can be his parallel”—lampooned it as a singular example of Theobald’s inadvertent, tautological vacuity. How could Shakespeare have written a line so vapid, Pope insinuated uncharitably, or one so awkwardly rhetorical as Violante’s exclamation upon opening Henriquez’s letter, “Wax, render up thy trust” (2.2.25)? Elsewhere in the volume, he dubbed Theobald as “piddling Tibbald,” a pedant and an academic quibbler, “Who thinks he reads when he but scans and spells.” Although Theobald fought back with a reply published in Mist’s Weekly Journal in April 1728, the worst was still yet to come.

In May 1728, Pope released the first version of a new mock-epic, The Dunciad, a work that would ultimately become one of the landmarks of eighteenth-century English literature. The poem’s titular Dunce and main character was none other than Theobald himself. The poem forced Theobald into the role of the dullest, most witless writer of the age, an author of dreary spectacle-shows and frivolous farces. Unfortunately for Theobald, this characterization would prove nearly impossible to shake off. When The Dunciad was re-released in April 1729, it appeared with a lengthy set of critical notes that went even farther—this time parodying Theobald’s hyperactive editorial tendencies (as revealed by his comments on Hamlet) by applying them to Double Falsehood, and ultimately implying that Double Falsehood was an out-and-out forgery on Theobald’s part. A pamphlet war ensued, and the notion that the play might be a whole-cloth fabrication began to gain traction.

During this time, Theobald resolved to unseat Pope as Shakespeare’s preeminent, eighteenth-century editor. In 1733 he released his own edition of Shakespeare’s plays, in seven volumes. (Double Falsehood was conspicuously absent from this publication.) Theobald’s edition outshone Pope’s both in its critical thoroughness, the influential status it came to occupy among critics, and in the sales figures it generated, but it also had the unfortunate effect of reinforcing the cartoonish profile Pope had already crafted for Theobald as a small-minded, over-zealous hair-splitter. After this, there was little Theobald could do to recuperate his public profile. Until only recently, with reawakened interest in Double Falsehood, history would remember him mostly as King Dunce, a possible forger, and a picker of literary nits. Both he and Alexander Pope died in 1744.

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Works Consulted / Further Reading

Hammond, Brean. Introduction and Appendix 1 to Double Falsehood (London: Methuen/Arden Shakespeare, 2010), 1-160 and 307-19.

Pope, Alexander. The Major Works, Pat Rogers, ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press/Oxford World’s Classics, 2009).

“Shakespeare’s Editors – Lewis Theobald,” Palomar College, last modified September 21, 2009. http://shakespeare.palomar.edu/editors/Theobald.htm